Congress to hear Diaz case
David Wu's legislation could stall deportation of the Beaverton family
It's crunch time for the Diaz family.
In the next week U.S. Rep. David Wu and his staff will be kept hopping as they lead an effort to move a private bill through a U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration before a tight July 17 deadline.
Wu, a Hillsdale Democrat who represents Oregon's 1st Congressional District, is working to pass H.R. 5745, a private congressional bill to continue the stay on the deportation of Irma Diaz and her two oldest children, Luis Jr., 21, and Monica, 19.
The bill would keep the Diaz family together while Luis Sr.'s political asylum appeal is considered. Wu introduced the bill June 29 in the U.S. House on the Beaverton family's behalf.
'The bottom line is that once you have the Diaz family's situation clearly presented to you, it becomes very difficult to not take action,' Wu said.
The Diaz family's plight was brought to Wu's attention by a flurry of calls from concerned neighbors, friends and former teachers as well as a formal request by the family's immigration attorneys Tilman Hasche and Sherilyn Waxler of Parker, Bush and Lane, PC.
Petitions and letters from residents of Beaverton's Heritage Village Manufactured Home Community, members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Aloha and the staff of Elmonica Elementary School urged Wu to take action to keep the family together in the United States.
Luis Sr.'s political asylum and cancellation of removal claims are both on appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Letters of support and calls to Wu's office praised the family's contributions to the community in the 15 years it took immigration officials to review and rule on Luis Sr.'s application for political asylum and lawful permanent residency.
'The circumstances the Diaz family faces seem to be particularly hard,' Wu said. 'They are facing a potentially lengthy process that would separate the family for a long time.
'I'm very sympathetic to it, at least in part due to my own recollection of my family being separated for six years.'
Wu remembers the hardships his family faced while legally immigrating to the United States from China.
'I was 4 months old when my father came to the United States,' he said. 'I didn't see him again for a little over six years. I recall my dad was more of a legend than a physical presence.'
He also remembers the fear he felt when his family was reunited after the long separation.
'I was very scared,' he said of his experience as a young boy. 'It was like meeting a total stranger that I knew was an important character in my life.'
Although the Diaz family's circumstances are different, Wu's personal immigration experience coupled with his work as an attorney prompted him to take action to keep the family together while the ultimate fate of Luis Sr.'s case is decided.
H.R. 5745 is one of only three private bills that Wu has sponsored in his eight years in Congress.
The action comes at a time when Wu's Republican opponent State Rep. Derrick Kitts is already making immigration an issue in his campaign to unseat Wu in the 1st Congressional District race.
'The immigration challenge is a very real problem,' Wu said. 'We need to address it very seriously.
'Working out a broader solution is a better thing to do, but if you have the ability to do something about this family's situation now, it's hard not to do so.'
Especially with the clock ticking, he said.
'There is a political firestorm about immigration right now,' Wu said of the political climate. 'I think given the reasons why people sent me to Washington, it would be a disappointment if I were to back away from this case because of the political situation.
'It would also be a disappointment to myself for failing to do the right thing. I think (this private bill) is as fair and humane of a response as we can manage under these very difficult circumstances. It's important to keep the Diaz family together while the process runs its course.'
The best step
With Congress back in session Monday, Wu hopes to meet with the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration before Irma, Luis Jr. and Monica are forced to return to their native Guatemala on July 17.
Once the subcommittee requests a report from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the stay will be continued, said Jillian Schoene, spokeswoman for Wu.
'Our next step is to work with the committee,' Schoene said.
Wu said his Washington staff is working on scheduling a committee meeting before the looming deadline.
'We can't make any promises right now, but we're certainly going to try,' Wu said. 'In some respects it's very much like the other aspects of the Diaz family's saga. You take the best step you can, work hard toward it and hope for the best.'